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Pets Can Improve Your Health

There are many stories about the benefits animal companions have on human health, whether they are service animals, therapy animals or family pets. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, is in the midst of an effort to study what effect they can have on children’s well-being.

Their interest in this type of research goes back at least two decades. An N.I.H. meeting as far back as 1987 “concluded that there needed to be much more research” on the subject. But most studies so far have focused on negative interactions, like the ways pets could spread disease.

Health professionals who work with animals expect the research to back up their observations. For example, according to the New York Times:

“At Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Southern California, for instance, dozens of volunteers regularly take their dogs to visit patients ... Some patients who have refused to speak will talk to the dogs ... and others who have refused to move often reach for the dogs so they can pet them. So the animals become part of the therapeutic program, especially in the areas involving speech and movement.”

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